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Hill Avo. Walkthrough at St. Regis Hotel, Beijing

Afternoon Walkthrough at St. Regis Hotel, Beijing

Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
St. Regis Hotel
Beijing, China
December 18, 2006


QUESTION: Are you disappointed that you could not meet with the North Koreans today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: First of all, we’re just taking a break from the deliberations out in Diaoyutai. We began around ten o’clock or so, but most of the day’s been taken up with the plenary meetings. We had a lengthy meeting with the heads of delegation and also a meeting with the full delegations, where we went around the room and had six very long speeches. I take some pride in having the shortest speech, but nonetheless it took quite a while. We began some bilateral meetings. I met with the ROK delegation, also with the Japanese and we'll have some more either tonight or tomorrow morning. I don’t think there are any real surprises in the first day. It’s still hard to assess at this point where we’ll be at the end of the week. The various delegations took time to reiterate some well known positions. I certainly used the occasion to reiterate our commitment to the Joint Statement, because there are many commitments that are made in the Joint Statement, and I made the point that with full denuclearization, many things are possible, but without denuclearization nothing is going to be possible. So, I think we’ ll have to again see how we are. We’ll be going back to the talks probably later today and we'll be starting again in the morning.

QUESTION: Do you have a bilateral with North Koreans set already?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It’s not set. We were considering a time this afternoon but I wanted meet with the South Korean and Japanese delegations first, and I may also, while I have the occasion, meet with the Chinese as well. It’ll happen when it happens.

QUESTION: How about the meeting with North Koreans on financial measures? Is it going to happen tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: My understanding is it will happen tomorrow. Our delegation was ready today, but I gather the number of flights from Pyongyang is fairly limited. I think the DPRK will have some officials coming in tomorrow and then I think that’s when they’ll meet.

QUESTION: What we’ve heard, the reports we’ve had so far, said the North Koreans said they’re will not denuclearize until the UN sanctions are lifted …[inaudible]. What’s your response to that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, I don’t know. Plenary sessions are often the time for long speeches and I wouldn’t spend a long time analyzing them. Certainly the Six-Party Talks really offer no refuge to people in need of instant gratification. In short, it takes a little longer than one would like. I don’t know, we’ll see what the North Koreans have in mind when we meet with them. We’ve made it very clear -- in fact, I’ve been to Beijing, I think, five times since I came with Dr. Rice in the end of the latter part of October. We have worked very hard to try to plan this opening session of the Six Party Talks. So again, we will have to see where we are by the end of the week.

QUESTION: What was your impression about the North Korean speech?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, I don’t know, I’ll leave it to others to have an impression about the North Koreans. I think what’s important in these things is to work as hard as you can, travel as far as you have to travel, make sure your delegation is well prepared and I feel from our point of view, from the U.S. point of view, we’ve done all that. You’ll have to ask others how they think they are doing.

QUESTION: Did anyone propose a specific roadmap for getting the DPRK towards denuclearization?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think the Chinese side has that in mind. As the host, they have in mind the roadmap or a work plan of how we would achieve the complete implementation of the September 2005 package. I think what’s important for people to understand is the September 2005 package needs to be implemented as a whole. That is, there are obligations are among all the parties. There are obligations on our part and I wanted to reiterate that we are prepared to move ahead with our obligations. But there are also very important obligations on the part of the DPRK. Certainly the issue of the UN sanctions remains very much part of those obligations. If you read the Security Council text, it’s very clear that those sanctions remain in effect until the DPRK does what it’s supposed to do, which is to get out of this business of the producing nuclear weapons.

QUESTION: Were you expecting the financial talks to start today and surprised that they didn’t, since it was so high on the North Korean agenda?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We were told by the Chinese host to have our delegation ready, and we have worked very closely with the Chinese and complied with all their requests, so we made sure that we had our group of people, I think there are five of them, ready to deal with this question. We made sure we got them here to Beijing by Sunday night. We were expecting them to get to work Monday morning, and we learned that the DPRK financial experts, who are different from the Six Party delegation of the DPRK, will be coming on the Tuesday morning flight. So I guess our people had a day to get over the jetlag, which is something I would appreciate as well.

QUESTION: Could you tell us something more about the Chinese roadmap, what it is?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: The Chinese did not lay out elements of it. We've been talking to them for several weeks on how we should implement the September statement. There are some technical issues in the September statement. For example, there’s a lot of discussion about energy assistance, and so we would expect to have several working groups that would be organized and figure out how to implement energy and economic assistance. We’d have a working group that would deal with the issue of DPRK-US relations, and that has to do with the eventual -- I think it’s section 2, paragraph 2 -- the eventual normalization of our relationship. I think what the Chinese were talking about was the idea setting up these working groups, so that they could be ongoing and we could make progress. Again, this was just a preliminary session. I must say the length of the speeches certainly didn’t make it sound preliminary, but this is the preliminary session. I suspect in the next couple of days we& rsquo;ll get down to the work of what these working groups will look like and what they precisely do.

QUESTION: North Korea was supposed to talk first in the initial statement and they have changed to after [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You mean on the order of speaking? You are very well informed, but my recollection, and you probably remember this better than I do, in the first the head of delegation meeting we went counter clockwise through the room, and then in the plenary we went clockwise. So that was the significance of that. You asked about the mood? The first day of negotiation is never the easiest day, although it's rarely the most difficult day either. I must say, those of us who worked very, very hard in the last few weeks wanted to make sure others have worked as hard as we have. The day is not over, but I would like to see a little more progress today.

QUESTION: Who’s going to be your counterpart?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You know, there’s a list of the DPRK people that are coming, but you have got to check with them. I’m not a spokesman for the DPRK. You ask them.

QUESTION: So you were talking about a fork in the road when you first arrived on Sunday. Do you have a better idea of how far along that road you are?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we’ve really come to a very important juncture, frankly. We have worked hard on the six party process, and we believe this is the best process. We believe this is the process that can best lead to denuclearization. If the DPRK understands denuclearization, and understands the need for that, I think they can understand that it provides a much smoother road to lead to some of the other destinations that they want. If they want to go another road, I think it makes reaching those other destinations quite impossible. I think we are at a fork in the road because, frankly, I can’ t tell you at this point which road the DPRK is choosing. We can go either road. We would like the denuclearization via a diplomatic negotiation. but if they don’t want that, we are quite prepared to go to the other road. As I mentioned yesterday, it’s a pretty tough road, it is going to be long road, but it involves lots of measures that are designed eventually to bring the same result. I’ve said many times we have different options for dealing with issue of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but we don’t have the option of walking away from this problem. We’ve got to stay with it. We do not have the option of walking away from this. We’ll see. I mentioned the fork in the road, because I think, really from the DPRK’s point of view, their future is very much at stake. The future of most of the other countries is not really at stake. I think the Untied States will go on, I think China will go on, but for the DPRK, this is a very, very fundamental question. You know, I looked at some of the record of how long we have been negotiating with the DPRK. Four American Presidents have been engaged in various negotiations, starting during the Reagan administration. It’s not that we’re impatient; it’s just that we do need to see some results.

QUESTION: You have not seen them for two days bilaterally. Don’t you feel as though the North Koreans might be refusing or avoiding meeting Americans?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t think that’s the case. It does seem they did not want to have bilateral meetings before the start of the Six Party Talks, and that might account for the fact that, over the weekend, they did not meet with us or meet with anyone else except the Chinese hosts. I think that they are prepared to have bilateral meetings. We wanted first to meet with the Japanese and the South Koreans, that is, our two allies.

QUESTION: You said today that you might have a chance of meeting with the North Koreans. When will you know definitively when that happens?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know, we haven’t set a time. Again, I’d like to talk to the Chinese, since the plenary session. We had a bilateral with the Chinese yesterday just before the dinner. We met with the Chinese delegation at six o’clock yesterday before the seven o’ clock dinner. We’ve not met with the Chinese bilaterally since the two plenary meetings, that is the head of delegation and full delegation meetings. I met with the South Koreans and Japanese. I think I’d like to meet the host and then we’ll take it from there. I’d like to meet the Russians as well and we’re talking about maybe getting together in their Embassy later on.

QUESTION: So for clarification, before you meet with the DPRK delegation you will be meeting with the Chinese?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes. That’s what we’d like to do. Again, nothing is etched in stone.

QUESTION: So there’s a chance you may meet them later on today, tonight?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, and you’ll be the first to know.

QUESTION: Why are they avoiding you, because you said they were going to meet you yesterday?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It turns out they did not want to have any bilateral meetings over the weekend, and they would only start having bilateral meetings after the plenary session, after they laid out their views. We compared notes with some of the other delegations and we found that to be the case. They did meet with the Chinese, but I think that has to do with meeting the hosts in the process.

QUESTION: [Inaudible]…plenary this morning. How would you describe North Korea’s attitude at this time?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: How would I describe their attitude? I’m not a mind reader so you’ll have to talk to them. They certainly have a capacity for giving long speeches – I’ll give them credit for that – more than I have for giving them, or for listening to them. It was a long speech and I think they wanted to restate a lot of their positions.

QUESTION: Is there an offer of normalization of relations that goes beyond what we’ve seen to date?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, it’s in the Joint Statement. It's section 2, paragraph 2, and what it does is calls on the U.S. and the DPRK to initiate a process leading to normalization consistent with each other’s policies. You can look up the precise wording. It’s an important element of the joint statement, an important undertaking on the part of the United States. It& rsquo;s in the Joint Statement.

QUESTION: It’s a long way from setting up Embassies and things like that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It depends on how quickly we move on the denuclearization. It depends how quickly we implement the document, because when the document is implemented, we presumably have made a lot of progress on the normalization track.

QUESTION: So, the United States would be willing to move quickly with this administration if denuclearization [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We are prepared to move not only quickly but thoroughly on all our undertakings in the Joint Statement, and initiating this process leading toward normalization would be one of those things. But again, we have to have the process get going to deal precisely. But certainly as I mentioned, with denuclearization lots things become quite possible and quite doable. Without denuclearization we’re not going to get much done at all.

QUESTION: Did they reiterate their commitment to denuclearization?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes they did reiterate their commitment to the Joint Statement and to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. That’s a wonderful thing to say, but we need to get down and figure out a work plan for that and figure out how we’re going to start implementing that.

QUESTION: Did any of the other parties comment on the Chinese proposals or Chinese roadmap in plenary meetings?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think the other parties, ourselves included, supported the idea of a work plan. I think the word “roadmap” has been taken up by other processes in other parts of the world so I think we prefer the term “work plan.” I think everyone’s committed to that, but we haven’t worked out the details, and that’s something we might like to work on this week.

QUESTION: Is the BDA working group set for tomorrow for sure? [Inaudible] & hellip;bilaterally?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We were ready this morning. I don’t know where they are, probably out doing something else right now, but we were ready this morning and I understand that the DPRK will be ready tomorrow. I’m sure they will set something up.

QUESTION: [Inaudible]

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I believe so. I'm sorry, I’ve been in the middle of the Six-Party Talks all day but I’m sure it’s going to happen tomorrow. Assuming the Air Koryo flight gets here.

QUESTION: Did you offer any date for a bilateral?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I didn’t offer an exact date as I said before. I wanted to speak to our allies, the ROK and Japan, and then I wanted to speak to the host and when we do that we’ll figure out when we’re going to meet the DPRK. But I also want to speak to the Russians as well.

QUESTION: Did North Korea renew its demand for a light water reactor as part of the package? And also did it demand the lifting of U.S. financial sanctions? And what was your response?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: First of all, I didn’t give any response to their opening statement in the plenary and I would say they went through a lot of different elements that would be familiar. I don’t really want to be confirming particular elements that are in their statement because the statements were not open to the press. I don’t think it’s really fair if I start saying what was in other people’s statements. But I& rsquo;m sure you can ask them and I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you.

QUESTION: In your experience do you expect their negotiating position to change in the next two days?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I hope so.

QUESTION: So you would still like to go back…

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Are you asking for yourself or for me?

QUESTION: For both.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We’ll have to see. Our assumption is that we& rsquo;ll be going back at the end of the week.

QUESTION: And if North Korea’s negotiating position doesn’t change, where does that lead?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: That’s a hypothetical question, so we’ll see. I don’t know where we are yet.

QUESTION: How will your opening statement… [inaudible] more idea of where you stand?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I laid out an approach in which I wanted to make clear that people know that we’ve given a lot of thought to this session, we’ve done a lot of work for this session, we’ve put together a very strong interagency team, that we have the strong backing of our senior leadership back in Washington, and that we want to move ahead with the full implementation of the September 2005 statement, including especially and including all of our undertakings in that statement, but that there has been a lot of damage done to the six party process. There have been too many delays, and I think I made the point that the supply of our patience may have exceeded the international demand for that patience, and that we should be a little less patient and pick up the pace and work a little faster. I think I made all those points, and I said as well that we are prepared to try to take some of the elements of the September statement and try to get them done this week to demonstrate that the process indeed has legs and is moving forward.

QUESTION: Last month you laid a proposal on the table to North Korea in Beijing in your bilateral with them, what is the least North Korea can do this week in order for you to say “yes we’ve had some results”?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’m not going to negotiate with them through press interviews, but clearly in addition to hearing them out in the plenary, we’re going to have to hear them out in the rest of the week as well. I& rsquo;ll be in a better position to describe it to you at the end of the week.

QUESTION: Will we have the pleasure of your company again today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Why don’t you go Christmas shopping for your families and if we have something to announce, we’ll be sure to let people know and give you time to get back. At present, let me say no. Go have a nice dinner and take it easy. This is going to go on for a few more days.

QUESTION: How about your plans for dinner?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: My plans for dinner? They’re not with you. OK, see you later.

Released on December 18, 2006

ENDS


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